Breyer Sold Wal-Mart Shares in Advance of Supreme Court Case

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer sold between $15,000 and $50,000 in Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) shares last year in a move that has let him take part in a case that may limit class-action lawsuits.

The sale, revealed today in Breyer’s annual financial disclosure report, took place in January 2010, three months before a federal appeals court ruled that Wal-Mart had to face a gender-bias suit on behalf of potentially a million female workers. The justices heard arguments in March on Wal-Mart’s appeal of that decision and are scheduled to rule by the end of June.

Breyer and his wife in recent years have sold shares in more than a dozen companies so he can take part in additional cases at the Supreme Court. Justices typically disqualify themselves from cases involving companies in which they have a financial interest.

Chief Justice John Roberts has also sold a number of his individual stock holdings since joining the court in 2005. According to his disclosure report, Roberts last year sold his Pfizer Inc. (PFE) stock, valued at $15,000 or less, eliminating a holding that on several occasions prevented him from taking part in Supreme Court cases.

Breyer continues to hold stock in a number of companies, including IBM Corp., Amgen Inc. (AMGN) and Cisco Systems Inc. (CSCO) Roberts owns shares of Microsoft Corp. (MSFT), Intel Corp. (INTC) and Freddie Mac, while Justice Samuel Alito owns Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) and Bristol- Myers Squibb Co. Alito sold less than $15,000 in Walt Disney Co. (DIS) stock last year.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor said in her disclosure report that she received a $1,175,000 book advance from Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group last year. Sotomayor, who grew up in a South Bronx housing project in New York City, is writing a memoir that will be published in both English and Spanish.

To contact the reporter on this story: Greg Stohr in Washington at gstohr@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at msilva34@bloomberg.net.

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